R*E*S*P*E*C*T – tell me what it means to him

Hey MTs!  I need your help – your DH’s to be specific.

My DH says that it’s not that he doesn’t like my brothers, but that he thinks they don’t respect him.  He says “I don’t spend time with people who don’t respect me” and that’s his reason for avoiding as many family gatherings with my brothers as he can.   The latest is Thanksgiving, and we had our biggest fight in a long time over his refusal to go to my brother and sister-in-law’s house  (and my subsequent white lies to both my brother and my mom).  I”m hard pressed to see how a gracious invitation from my brother and sister-in-law to spend a fall weekend at their house in the Catskills could ever be construed as disrespect……..but I finally agreed we could stay home.


What the heck does he mean?  I’ve asked him but he can’t or won’t really answer.  Ask your DH or other man in your life – what does a guy mean when he thinks another guy respects or doesn’t respect him?   As a “fixer”, I want to think that if I know what he’s talking about I can either keep an eye out for it, or talk to my folks or brothers about it.   And it bugs me to have this amorphous concept (respect) without really knowing what it means.


17 thoughts on “R*E*S*P*E*C*T – tell me what it means to him

  1. Wow?!

    Where’s hubby’s respect for your ability to spend time with your side of the family?

    My husband just flat out doesn’t like one of my sisters and will try to avoid spending time with her, though he dotes on her daughter, our niece. He explained to me why he doesn’t like her and he is never aggressive or rude to her, so I just let it go. Frankly I don’t like her much, but she is family, and I do love her inspite of herself. Are you absolutely sure he just doesn’t like them? I know he said he doesn’t but reading between the lines is there more going on? Do they have any common interests? Do they have any similarities in work, church or hobbies? Maybe he just doesn’t get them.

    Because as I see it, if you brothers like your husband, enough to invite you guys to parties and vacations, then it isn’t their problem, its his problem.

  2. No insight here

    but sympathy.  That stinks, and in your position I’d be pretty pissed.  Especially since you’ve attempted to draw out what he means by respect of lack thereof, and he’s been unwilling or unable to tell you, it seems very unreasonable for him to expect you to indulge him here.

  3. couple questions

    I don’t know if I’ll be much help, but I’m wondering about a couple things:

    Does your husband have specific things that he’s sensitive about, or would have inferiority complexes about–especially in comparison to your brothers?  (e.g., they make more money than he does, have “better” jobs, more education, something like that.)  I know that my DH has a few points like this, and he’s likely to feel disrespected if they’re grazed (often unintentionally on the part of the other person).

    What’s his personality type, compared to your bros?  Is he more likely to be quiet in a crowd (thus possibly “talked over,” which he might take as being ignored or shortchanged but the other guys just might take as being less talkative)?  

    Do your bros have a close relationship/see each other often?  If that’s the case, your husb might just be feeling like an interloper (again, probably unintentionally on their part), since I’m getting the sense that he doesn’t see them that often.

    Maybe just thinking about some of this stuff might help you see some kind of pattern and get a better sense of what your husband means.  

    • Really good questions

      Better than my knee jerk response of just being angry with Sue’s husband.  On that note, Sue, you’ve been married a long time.  What has changed that he’s drawing this line in the sand now?  What you’re saying sounds like he’s never loved spending time w/your brothers, but that he’s never taken quite such a strong stance against it before.

  4. Employment issue?

    Could he be projecting? I have no advice but I think I’d go without him. I know that doesn’t make for a super fun time, but, seriously? He can’t suck it up for a weekend? Sorry, Sue. I know I’m not being helpful. I’ll stop now.

  5. brothers and sisters in law

    I have no insight into how this works between men, but I have been in your husband’s position with regard to my sisters in law. They are both the master of little underground digs and slights, often nonverbal. They bitch outrageously behind other in-laws backs and so I’ve always assumed they do the same to me. Dh’s cousins have told us that the family is just really hard core tribal, and all of the in laws get this stuff for many years. But they are be oh so shocked and indignant when anybody (family or in law) calls them on it. They say the same kinds of things, “what could be so terrible about coming to the Cape with us??” Ladies, let me count the ways. Those of us being hazed certainly aren’t expected to put up any pushback. Because that would be causing trouble you see.

    I think we can all relate to these interpersonal things being really hard to describe but knowing they are real. So Sue unless you think your husband is generally paranoid about other people, it might be helpful to start from a position of believing him. I found it intolerable when my husband expected me to put up with it, visit after freaking visit, and wouldn’t even cop to his sisters behavior. He spent a lot of energy arguing why we “had to” see his family and not an ounce of energy getting them off my back. “Luckily” they outed themselves by being so outrageous at Passover that it’s all out on the table – something they have never experienced with an in law.  But after 7 years of this crap – and missing my dad’s 70th birthday to spend Passover with them because my MIL is very ill – they are getting the big eff you (the sisters in law not my MIL), and we plan to not see them for 2010 at the very least. Wild horses will not get me on a plane to visit them next year. Period. Life is really too short.

    So anyway, I can relate to your husband’s position. And it doesn’t fire me up or anything.

  6. guessing…

    but it sounds like a competitive issue. my dh comes from a very large family and at any one time there is likely one sib who isn’t speaking to another.  i’ve had sib problems and parent problems from time to time as well.

    i do think it is ok to take a break if a spouse is having an issue significant enough to make them this outpsoken. there surely must be a problem.  OTOH, it is the responsibility of the offended person to be clear and be willing to work towards a solution so that you can spend time together with your family.

    good luck Sue, i think many of us have been in this kind of situation at one time or another.

  7. I don’t respect my sister in law

    I suppose I could like her well enough if she went back to being the cool forward thinking woman she was when she married my brother…but the dishrag she has become…I don’t respect.     I don’t respect my brother for allowing it to happen and for forcing her into a position where she wasn’t allowed to grow nor encouraging her to seek things that filled her spirit.    No…I don’t respect them.    

    As far as the weekend with your family goes – could he stay home and you go with the kids?   I mean, I take the kids and visit my family without my spouse sometimes.   My family can be hard to put up with and my husband needs a break from all of us sometimes.  

  8. i got nothing

    sorry.  can’t help at all w/ this.

    i just want to say that even though i’ve seen a pic of you and your hubby and your kids, you now look like aretha franklin to me.

  9. Ok

    Now, is there some glaring difference between them? Like are your brothers more successful, drive better cars, have bigger houses, make more money, better educated, that kind of thing? I know some guys really care about that kind of stuff.

    I’m sensing that your DH thinks that your brothers think they are better than him for him some reason.

  10. My husband had no idea

    sorry….all he said was “I wonder why they don’t respect him?”

    I see others have already asked about the competitiveness/comparison stuff which is huge for many people.  

    It’s too bad he can’t articulate more specifics.  How frustrating.  I wouldn’t have much patience at all without his ability to be more specific.

  11. It’s also possible that

    they’re just very. different. people.
    I’ve run into this with my husband’s family. They’re rather, um, non-intellectual sorts. Now, I’ve learned how to appear only a little “stuck on myself” with that sort of personality, but I can only tell kid and cat stories so long.

    Fortunately, that, with news of who died and listening with interest to old stories everyone else heard can generally get me through a visit. (grin)

    But it’s different for men. My husband and father don’t get along; most of that is my father, who decided that since my husband isn’t making $20 an hour, and since he has health problems, he’s lazy. (Hello, dad, you retired from a GM factory. They don’t make those round these parts any more….) That subtle attitude colors everything he says to him, and combined with a passive aggressive mother and a sister who chose narrowmindedness and “fitting in” with the passion I give to writing….well, we don’t see them very much any more.  It’s just not worth the crap.

  12. thinking a bit more about this…

    and this is based on my presumption that your dh is looking for a job.   your dh said he likes your brothers but they don’t respect him is perhaps revealing.  also that he won’t or perhaps can’t explain it further suggests to me that this is an issue of feeling inadequate.  i know this is a generaliztion but our society insists that men provide for their families. i can imagine a scenario where your dh feels particularly inadequate in the company of your brothers, particularly if you are celebrating at their lovely home.

    i have seen this kind of reaction within both my side and dh’s side of the family.  what has worked for my dh and me  is letting each other know that our relationship is THE most important.  when distressed with an in law we have suppported one another. otoh both have us have eventually put our foot down on the notion that we won’t see a family member.  as we have worked through our stuff we allowed each other to take “breaks”.

  13. I’m so sorry this is happening to you.

    I would kill for a family. I’m an orphan. People with families don’t realize how lucky they are.

    Is your husband unemployed? That could be it in a nutshell. He doesn’t respect HIMSELF because he isn’t providing as a man should (old school thinking), and he is projecting those feelings onto your brothers.

    If this has been going on for a long time, then there may be a more complicated explanation. I’m betting you are a little sister to your brothers, if not in fact then in deed. When you were growing up, they were your protectors, and they did a great job, plus there was more than one of them to get the job done.

    Now it is your husband’s job to protect you. (Your DH has old school thinking. He’s entitled to it. That is the era in which he was raised.) However, when your brothers are around, he is in competition with them over who is the primary protector of the pearl in the velvet lined box, YOU. I’m guessing your brothers dote over you and look after you with special care when you are around them because that has been the script they have been following all of their lives.

    How to fix this. (1) Your husband can’t tell you what is going on because he doesn’t understand his feelings. The good news is he doesn’t have to understand his feelings for you to fix this. (2) Assuming the problem is the latter, out of the blue, with no association to the vacation or your family, just out of the blue like you are musing out loud, say something like, ‘You know DH, when I was growing up, my (put in the number) brothers looked after me and protected me, and there were so many of them doing the job. But you know what DH, now that you are protecting me, I feel so much safer than I did when it was just my brothers protecting me. You as one person are doing such a better job that my x number of brothers ever did.’ You may want to feed this to him in small amounts, and regularly. Men tend to forget. But I’m betting if you adopt a meme of what a better protecter he is than your brothers, and keep repeating it because you have to replace the meme going on in his head (of which he is unaware), you can make his aversion go away.

    It may be to your advantage that he doesn’t understand. You can’t reason him out of this. This is about his FEELINGS, which you can affect without leaving any prints.

    I realize your brothers did and do a great job of looking after you, and you love it, and they aren’t in competition with DH, but those are facts. You are dealing with feelings here, and with a man involved, EGO. If you go at this from the side, just feelings, no facts, I think you will succeed. And when he gradually switches to liking your brothers, remember to never remind him there was a time he thought they didn’t respect him. Just let that go. Men have convenient memories when we let them. So be sure to let him in this case.  

    It may be hard for you to say ‘you are doing a better job than my brothers’, when in fact that’s not really true BECAUSE THERE IS NO COMPARISON, but I think it will do the trick. If you can, try it. Good luck.

  14. at least one of my brothers

    does not respect my husband, and it shows. My DH is quite confident and he is not threatened by my brother, but I think he finds spending time with him tiresome.  He accompanies me to family functions for me and for DS; it’s pure generosity on his part. And if the gatherings become too frequent, he will sit out a few.

    In our case it isn’t a problem because DH and I view my brother in similar ways. I find him kind of annoying and superior, too.  So we just try to figure out tolerable ways to get through it and that seems to work for us.

    We were at their house last weekend and somehow word got out about a recent investment my DH had made. The nature of the investment seemed out of character, so my family was having a good laugh that DH would do such a thing.  My brother said, loudly, “This is the BIL I’ve been waiting 25 years for!” Yes, it was a joke, but it kind of underscored the differences that keep them from being close. Ironically, if he knew my DH a little better, he would know that this investment is right up his alley.

  15. sibling dynamics interesting subject

    i have learned alot over the years on this subject and have made many mistakes in my own treatment w/r/t sib spouses.  i tended to treat my SILs with the same kind of “humorous” irrevence or tone i would use with by brothers.  while my brothers felt totally comfortable in making a jab back, in laws?  not so much.  my experience and possibly part of what i had to learn was not to do that and be much more thoughtful.

    i have a strong personality for better or worse….sigh.  i can be overbearing and combined with passion it can be shall we say…annoying :)  adding in laws into the mix and then when everyone has children..the dynamics of course change.  i wish i had been more self aware of this and not stepped into so much doo doo.  

    the marital relationship of sibs is primary and getting that early on is important imo.  great topic for research, eh?

  16. Thanks all!

    Your comments and questions are amazing and insightful!

    I do think that part of the respect/disrespect thing has to do with level of employment (or at least perceptions) – my one bro is less educated and “only” a realtor.  He’s very loud and talks over people – which does drive my DH crazy – kudos to the MT who picked up on that vibe.  My other bro is an attorney.  He also sometimes talks over people.  I think my DH somehow feels that he doesn’t measure up – although he has an MBA, he’s not in as high level a job as he feels he should be by this time in his career.   It’s my younger bro the lawyer who aggravates my DH mostly.

    And my bros are worse when they’re together.

    As for go without him – I have done that – and that’s fine, but Thanksgiving is different – he wants to be with me and the kids.  And, to be fair, he’d say that he DOES do alot of trips to my family.  When I posted my question, I was very angry  – I feel more balanced about it now.  It’s not “over”, but I am getting more perspective.

    Your questions and comments give me a lot to think about – thanks again!

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